Monthly Archives: January 2015

Aquarium success with artificial insemination of sharks

The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., is celebrating the birth of two zebra sharks that are the result of artificial insemination, the first successful AI for the species. The aquarium, as well as experts in Japan and Australia, has successfully used AI in other shark species. Although use of the technique for sharks is still relatively new, it offers hope for more genetically diverse captive shark populations, and it could provide an avenue to help preserve species threatened with extinction. Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model) (1/27)

Tracing canine distemper to Serengeti Lions

Dogs may not be the primary source of canine distemper among Serengeti lions, according to new research. The team found that antibodies to canine distemper among lions did not peak at the same time they peaked in nearby domestic dog populations. The study implicated other wild carnivore species instead. “It’s a very curious disease,” said veterinarian Felix Lankester of Washington State University. “… There’s a lot more work to be done to understand really how the virus is working.” Voice of America (1/29)

Electric eel zaps neurons of its prey

From Nature Dec 11, 2014 pg 147

The electric eel stuns its fish prey by emitting electrical pulses that control parts of the nervous system of its victim.

Kenneth Catania at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN studied the behavior and electricl discharges of an el (Electrophorus electricus) when it was presented with fish in an squarium. He found that the eel’s shocks immobilize the fish by activating nerves controlling the muscles, causing them to contract throughout the fish’s body even when the fish’s brain and spinal cord were destroyed. Then the fish was hidden, the eel sent out two quick pulses, causing the fish to twitch, followed soon by a high-voltage zap and an attack.

The results show how the electric eel can remotely control its prey. Science 346, 1231-1234 (2014)

Some bats click wings to navigate

From Nature, Dec 11 2014 pg 147

Some bat species unable to use sonar to sense their environment can instead navigate using echoes from clicking their wings – possibly an early, crude form of echolocation.

A team led by Arjan Boonman and Yossi Yovel at Tel Aviv University in Israel studies three species of wild, non-echolocating Old Worlf fruit bats. They found that individuals of two species emitted clicks more frequently in the dark than in the light, and could find and land on large objects, although they failed to detect small obstacles. When the researches taped the bats’ wings, the clicking stopped, but the exact clicking mechanism could not be determined.

The authors suggest that much can be learned about the evolution of echolocation from these fruit bats.; Curr. Biol (2014)

Ebola virus hitting non human primates

Just out of the spotlight amid the devastating Ebola outbreak among humans, West Africa’s gorillas and chimpanzees have been dying of the virus, too. Outbreaks in the past few decades have killed thousands of the animals. Ebola is one of many factors clouding the outlook for the species, including deforestation, other infectious diseases and the illegal wildlife trade. The Conversation (Australia) (1/20)

Wild duck had avian influenza

A hunter-killed green-winged teal from Washington state was infected with a form of H5N1 avian influenza, according to test results. The duck is the first case in the U.S. The strain shares characteristics with the H5N1 virus that has caused human infections in Asia and Egypt, as well as with H5N8. At this point, the findings show migratory birds are transmitting disease, and poultry is the main concern, according to experts. For humans, “I would say the risk is not zero,” said U.S. Geological Survey microbiologist Hon Ip. NBC News (1/22)

Deadly white nose syndrome in bats disrupts hibernation

Infected bat. (Bloomberg)

White-nose syndrome may be devastating bats by altering the normal sleep-wake cycle during hibernation and overstimulating their immune systems. When bats enter torpor, their body temperature drops to nearly freezing and their heart rate slows dramatically, but every couple of weeks, they will awake from this state. Researchers have found that infected bats wake more frequently and use far more energy than healthy bats. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (1/13)